Venice: take tea at the Florian

Covid-19 has certainly put a dampener on overseas travel, but it hasn’t taken the shine off happy memories of past holidays.

I was saddened to read recently that Caffè Florian is struggling to keep its doors open; current media reports say Florian is facing ruin; I pray this is not so.

When Monty and I were last in Venice we took tea at the Florian. OK, I can already hear you asking why on earth would we stop for tea at the Florian in Venice? We know it is outrageously priced. In fact, it’s cheaper to have a glass of wine than a coffee or tea. But, I believe, everyone should take tea at the Florian; there really is something rather special about the whole experience. It’s old-world luxury; so gloriously civilized.

This was our second visit to Venice. The first was on New Year’s Eve a few years prior. The snow fell. The fireworks shone across the laguna. We were deliriously happy, Bellini in hand, crammed into St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) like sardines as we counted down to midnight. The next day, and for many days after, we had Venice to ourselves. Bliss. This time around not so lucky. We had landed right in the middle of the world-famous Venice Art Biennale along with fellow 40,000 tourists, art lovers, artists, and exhibitors.

Caffè Florian drew us in. It was a beautiful escape from the masses.

Seating outside the Florian

The oldest café in the world, Florian’s location is sublime. Sitting under the arches of the Square’s Procuratie Nuove arcades, this historic café offers seating options both inside and outside.

We chose the former. It is cheaper to dine inside this perfectly preserved antique rather than be seated at one of the tables and chairs hugging the café’s façade. But that’s not the reason we ventured inside. It’s the ambience. We secured a table nestled behind a stained-glass front window. It really is the best spot offering the perfect vantage point to gaze peacefully at the continuous swirl of people pouring in and out of St Mark’s Square.

Florian’s 18th century interior is deliciously luxurious. Dripping in old world charm with gilded frames, gold-leaf walls embellished with century-old works of art by Italian masters, rich red velvet banquet seating, and marble topped tables create the perfect picture. And if the decor doesn’t grab you then its list of celebrated patrons will. They include historic luminaries Charles Dickens, Lord Byron, Henry James, Casanova, and in later years Charlie Chaplin and leading 60’s pop art legend Andy Warhol. An impressive pedigree indeed.

As it was early in the day Monty and I ordered tea which was served by immaculately dressed waiters. Fast forward to 2021, I still recall our time at the café fondly.

It is truly heartbreaking this historic gem marked its 300th anniversary in December last year without the fanfare it so deserves. I know partaking in tea at the Florian is a ‘touristy thing’ to do, but with Covid-19 and unexpected ‘waves’ continually impacting on potential travel plans, I am forever thankful that Monty and I were able to savour its abiding charm.

If you are thinking of heading to Venice when travel bans are lifted, please pop into the Florian and show your support. You won’t regret it.

Let’s hope and pray it’s still open.

Vicki Montague is a freelance writer with a predilection for travel, European fashion, architecture that oozes history and charm, and objects that tell a story. She and her partner John are empty nesters - their three adult children have left the comforts of home to carve out their own paths in life. Vicki’s professional background is in marketing and public relations.

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